Friday, March 27, 2009

Vietnamese Inspired Noodle Bowl

I first had this dish at Mekong, one of my favorite restaurants in Richmond. They usually make it with pork or shrimp or tofu and cut up spring rolls. I do a vegan version and serve it with peanut sauce rather than the traditional fish sauce. My Janine twist on this is the addition of tart apple cut into matchsticks. It looks pretty, tastes fresh and smacky and goes great with peanut.

Most of this dish is prep work. There's very little actual cooking, except a few seconds to cook the rice noodles and the making of the peanut sauce.

I make the sauce first.

In a small saucepan, heat up a cup of vegetable broth. Add 3 tablespoons of peanut butter, 2 tablespoons of molasses, 2 tablespoons of rice or cider vinegar, pureed garlic and pureed ginger, and crushed red pepper flakes. If you do not have to worry about sodium, use soy sauce instead of molasses. Heat all this stuff until the peanut butter's all melted and everything's incorporated. Then take a little of the mixture out, dissolve a couple teaspoons of cornstarch in it and stir it back into the sauce. The sauce will become thicker and it will suddenly look all creamy and emulsified.

Yep, it's magic. Set the sauce aside.

Then I just layer all the stuff in the bowls. First, napa cabbage cut into very thin slices.

Then fresh mung bean sprouts and roughly chopped fresh Thai basil. Don't skip the basil! It's a very important flavor component and it tastes divine. Then julienned zucchini.

At this point, I like to drizzle a bit of peanut sauce or some hot sauce, like Sriracha.

Next, I add a layer of rice vermicelli. Then julienned carrot, matchsticks of tart apple, scallions, more peanut sauce and crushed peanut. Oh, what the hell--add a few more Sriracha polka dots.

This may seem like a strange blend of flavors, but the crunch of the raw vegetables, the incredibly aromatic Thai basil, the sweet tartness of the apples and the peanut sauce all work together to throw a gala in your mouth. Enjoy the splendid flavors and textures. You're welcome.


debra said...

MISSED YOU! This sounds divine. But I can't do the peanut sauce anymore...stupid food allergies...would almond butter work? Or, sesame/tahini? Thoughts?

Welcome back to blog world. I love your blog....LOVE IT! And YOU!

Janine Serresseque said...

I love you right back! I didn't realize you are also allergic to peanuts. Good grief.
Yeah, I bet tahini would be good, too! It would go really well with the flavors.
If you like fish sauce, that's what it is usually served with. You can buy fish sauce ready made. It's clear and very light flavored.
I also noticed that the new and improved Food Lion by us has all kinds of nut butters in the snooty food section. I saw cashew butter and almond butter.

Jacquie said...

Yum! Yum! Yum!

pnlkotula said...

I want to try that, and you know I'm not brave. Eating it, not making it, just so you understand. As Amber said to Jamie last weekend upon learning that her 7 yr old brother had started the 3rd Harry Potter, "I don't understand you." (Amber isn't much of a reader, see.) Have a fantabulous trip!!!

JB said...

That looks amazing!!!